Featuring a well-known fleet of three dive boats — Conception, Vision and Truth — Truth Aquatics is a staple of the Santa Barbara Harbor, with the trio of vessels founded in 1974 by Roy Hauser.
On Monday morning, Conception was engulfed in flames near Santa Cruz Island, with the boat sinking in 64 feet of water, just 20 yards away from shore.
After Mr. Hauser debuted his first dive boat, Truth, in 1974, Conception was built and launched in 1981, featuring live-aboard opportunities for divers looking for a multi-day excursion — which was the case this Labor Day weekend, with the 39 people aboard setting out on Friday and expected to return Monday evening.
At the time of launch, Conception broke the mold with amenities such as air-conditioned bunk rooms, a below-deck shower and a built-in barbecue.
Vision was added to the fleet in 1985, just larger than Conception but similar in offerings.
Mr. Hauser is retired, with Glen Fritzler now the owner and operator of the fleet. According to Truth Aquatics’ website, Mr. Fritzler aided Mr. Hauser starting from the age of 12, officially becoming a partner in 1979 once he earned his captain’s license.
Mr. Fritzler is listed as a captain on the company’s website, as he indicates that “my main passion is diving, however I have really enjoyed learning about the Channel Islands’ history and terrestrial life as we hike the islands’ beaches and interiors.”
According to the website, Mr. Fritzler aided in the construction of all three dive boats, while personally overseeing the work done to both Conception and Vision.
While managing the business is his main focus today, the company’s website indicates that Mr. Fritzler does captain multiple trips throughout the year. It is unclear if he was involved with the Labor Day weekend trip.
Truth Aquatics lists Jerry Boylan as the official Conception captain, with various news reports indicating that witnesses to the blaze believe a man named Jerry did escape the dive boat. Mr. Boylan has been with Truth Aquatics since 1983, receiving his own captain’s license in 1985. He has spent time as captain on all three vessels.
All three dive boats were built from the ground up, with the company website highlighting that the trio “were not converted from some prior use.”
Prior to Monday, there had been no noted issues with any of the fleet — with the U.S. Coast Guard stating at an afternoon press conference at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office headquarters that Conception had passed its annual compliance inspection, meaning that the vessel had working fire gear, functioning smoke alarms and an escape hatch.
Conception, nicknamed “The Warrior,” was built at a larger size — 79 feet in length overall — in order to expand a revised galley and bunk layout. According to specs listed on the company’s website, bunk capacity was 46 people maximum, with 13 double bunks and 20 single bunks.
The fuel capacity for Conception was 1,600 gallons, with a range of 880 nautical miles, while the dive boat also featured a number of electronics, including a 46-mile radar, a VHF radio, single sideband radio, video depth finder, digital depth finder, GPS, offshore navigator computer program and underwater recall.
Truth Aquatics was one of Santa Barbara’s first to adopt environmentally safe ways of operating, receiving the Green Award from Santa Barbara County.
In explaining the award, the Green Award said:
“Truth Aquatics, Inc. operates three large island excursion, diving, fishing boats out of Sea Landing, in the Santa Barbara harbor. Over the past two years, Truth Aquatics has participated in two Air Pollution Control District Innovative Technology Group programs, and has repowered all of its vessels with low-emission main and auxiliary diesel engines. This effort reduced the air emissions from the boats by approximately 70%. The boats have also been equipped with high purification oil filters that substantially extend the life of engine oil and reduce the need for oil.
The company has also switched from disposable paper and styrofoam products to reusable plastic containers producing a 70 percent reduction in trash. Guests are taken on tours of the engine rooms and told how the repowered engines provide an example of how to minimize our impacts on the environment in real life.”
Truth Aquatics staff members weren’t available for comment Monday, spending the day working with investigators.